Woman in Gold

"Very Good"

Woman in Gold Review


This fascinating true story is strong enough to hold up against the formulaic Hollywood treatment, boosted by another riveting performance from Helen Mirren. She adds some badly needed prickly humour to the film, which continually resorts to unsophisticated sentimentality as it traces a remarkable series of real events. And it helps that the story has some intriguing things to say about both art and history.

It opens in 1998 Los Angeles, where Maria Altmann (Mirren) has discovered some documents in her late sister's belongings that refer to a beloved portrait of their Aunt Adele (Antje Traue in flashbacks). The problem is that the painting is Gustav Klimt's Woman in Gold, which is regarded as the "Mona Lisa of Austria" and held in pride of place in the national gallery. Since Austria has begun restoring art stolen from its citizens by the Nazis, Maria hires novice family-friend lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), who quickly realises the futility of the case. But they travel to Vienna to begin the process, getting some help navigating the system from local journalist Hubertus (Daniel Bruhl). Sure enough, the Austrian government fights Maria at every step of the way.

The compelling argument in this film is that if Austria acknowledges that this national treasure was stolen, it implicates the government and the population in complicity with the Nazis. And that's something no one is willing to do. There's also of course the issue of greed, since Woman in Gold is worth $100 million. But Maria's simple question is why the painting's value or status matter when its true ownership is so clear. Director Simon Curtis and writer Alexi Kaye Campbell wisely dash through the series of hearings, court cases and appeals, while emphasising this undeniable fact of the case. Although this also simplifies most scenes into little more than "Nazis bad, Jews good". While the flashbacks to Maria's past are moving and informative, Randy's sideplots feel irrelevant and undercooked, featuring his pregnant wife (Katie Holmes) and sardonic boss (Charles Dance).

At the centre, Mirren gives Maria plenty of spark, offering sharp glances and witty dialogue to keep the film from feeling too over-serious. She also has superb chemistry with Reynolds, who feels oddly miscast in this tenacious-nerd role. Bruhl manages to bring plenty of weight in a small part, while other characters are less developed but add an emotional kick when needed, including Tatiana Maslany as the younger Maria, Max Irons as her opera-star husband and Elizabeth McGovern and Jonathan Pryce in fizzy cameos as judges. Altogether, this solid cast manages to lift the somewhat preachy narrative into something resonant and thoughtful.


Woman In Gold Trailer

 



Woman in Gold

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

In Theaters: Friday 3rd April 2015

Distributed by: The Weinstein Company

Production compaines: The Weinstein Company, BBC Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 20%
Fresh: 1 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Simon Curtis

Producer: David M. Thompson, Kris Thykier

Starring: as Maria Altmann, as Randol Schoenberg, as Young Maria Altmann, as Pam, as Fritz, as Sherman

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